Laine Hardy‘s life is likely to be forever changed now that the 18-year-old Louisiana lad is officially the Season 17 winner of “American Idol.” His buccolic existence in the small burg of French Settlement in southern Livingston Parish is about to be upended. His days of four-wheel-driving and bass-fishing will soon take a backseat to promoting his new single, “Flame,” recording an album thanks to his spanking-new recording contract and going on tour.
While he had tough competition from his fellow finalists, Alejandro Aranda and Madison VandDenburg, anyone who knows “Idol” could tell this teen from the swamps was catnip for those texting young fans sending all their votes to him. Laine also had an advantage after auditioning last season and getting cut during the early rounds. This time, he went to an auditon in Idaho to accompany another hopeful but the judges encouraged him to try out, too. And the rest is “American Idol” history.
TV fame has already affected the boy who loved to go “mud riding” through the swamps in a four-wheeler, swam and skied in the backyard pond and fished at a local landing. Once Laine got on the show, he switched up his image by wearing a dapper suit and turning his boyish bangs into a pompadour. He also got some teeth fixed — damaged by a dirt bike accident when he was young — and coined his own slogan: “Party with a Hardy!”
Before he becomes a true “American Idol” superstar in the tradition of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, here are seven things you need to know about Laine, courtesy of “The Advocate,” which visited his hometown to dig up more about his background.
*According to his real-estate agent mom, Cindy, the young man with the Elvis-like aura would arrive wearing shoes when he went to the local guitar shop for his lessons. But once there, he would take them off — and sometimes forgot to put them back on. Now he is wearing $4,000 diamond-studded footwear on TV.
*Laine bought his first guitar at a local Walmart store. His parents let him take lessons when he turned 8. He would save up $1,300 or so from gifts over the years and bought a G&L Legacy sunburst electric guitar. He loved Elvis Presley and would dress like him as he played Southern rock, country and classic rock.
*He began performing at local eateries and restaurants in a family band called the Band Hardy. While he was part of the Talented Music program when he was in ninth grade at his local high school, Laine refused to carry a tune. He told his instructor, “I don’t sing.” The first time his teacher heard him sing was when he was asked to audition for a production of “High School Musical.” But the shy teen rejected the idea.
*Eventually, his older brother, Kyle, encouraged to sing in the woods alone and record himself. He ended up auditioning for Season 16 after “Idol” producers saw him on YouTube. His mother says he took his ultimate rejection hard. But she encouraged him not to give up. As he told “The Advocate,” “Last year, when I was on the show, I went into it not knowing anything about music. I could barely sing. But after I got eliminated, I got home and started playing everywhere.”
*As for why he opted for tailored suits, his mom was initially taken aback when he asked for one, thinking that he should act his age. But as Cindy says, “I think that suit, he feels like he is putting on this armor … like he’s a different person.” Now he has half a million followers on Instagram.
*In some ways, though, Laine is still a kid who never cotton to being in Los Angeles for the duration of the TV contest. For his home visit last week, portions of which were shown on TV, he met with the governor, performed for 10,000 people at a concert and had a day named on his honor. But all he really wanted to do is to go home and sleep in his own bed again. When a homesick Laine arrived back to the house he grew up in, he walked into the kitchen, sat down and wept, according to his mom.